Over the first weekend in March, R.L. thespians of the younger classes (with a welcome trio of Winsor actresses) staged Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, this year’s Junior Play, in the Smith Theater. The play tells the story of Thoreau’s night spent in jail for refusing to pay the poll tax, levied to support the Mexican-American War and, indirectly, slavery.
For Henry David Thoreau, says Director Danny Bolton, “there were no random acts. His thoughts were deliberate and his deeds aligned completely with a steadfast commitment to finding truth,” which led him to adopt some new—and sometimes unpopular—ideas. There was no disconnect between his thoughts and actions, but the course of his actions had consequences. In the play, Henry confronts a myriad of issues—including slavery, the role of government, women’s rights, the power of nature and what he called the “liberality of learning”—and is arrested for daring to challenge them. Over his time in jail, he retraces the steps that have led to his profound philosophy and the solid foundation of thought he has pursued.
Mr. Bolton (who has directed for us several times before, including An Evening of Scenes two years ago and Hard Times five years ago), sees in the play a timelessness that continues to inspire us “to ask questions, convert thought into action, and live for the ‘unplanned, unexpected interruptions’ that greet each day."